Two pounds (British gold coin)

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For decimal two pound coins, see Two pounds (British coin).

A Two Pound coin was an occasional feature of the British currency from 1823 until 1996, and being minted each year since 1997. With the exception of proof coins issued in 1824, 1825, 1826, and 1831, the design of the reverse always featured the George and Dragon of Benedetto Pistrucci, with the year in the exergue under the design.

The coin was normally issued in cased "proof" condition, although the issues of 1823, 1887, 1893, and 1902 did circulate. The normal weight of the denomination was 16 grams, with a usual diameter of 28 millimetres.

The first appearance of the denomination was in 1820 during the final year of the reign of George III. This rare piece was not struck for circulation but only as a pattern. The obverse shows the bust of king facing right wearing a wreath and bears the legend GEORGIUS III D G BRITANNIARUM REX F D 1820. The reverse has no legend and shows the Pistrucci design.

The coin first appeared as a 'currency' or circulating coin in 1823 during the reign of George IV. The legend on this coin reads GEORGIUS IIII D G BRITANNIAR REX F D. The date and Pistrucci's George and the Dragon appear on the reverse and DECUS ET TUTAMEN ANNO REGNI IV on the edge. The obverse portrait of the king was designed by Jean Baptiste Merlen. This designer is known primarily for his reverses, with the portrait of the 1823 Two Pounds being the only obverse he engraved, using as a basis a model by Sir Francis Chantrey. The elegance of this portrait, compared with Benedetto Pistrucci's portrait for the sovereign, reveals that the choice of designer and engraver was a wise one. Apparently, Pistrucci was unwilling to work from the model of another artist. The quality of the strike was exceptional, producing what some consider to be the most beautiful two pound piece ever produced. The reverse of this coin by Pistrucci has been the basis for the design of this denomination right up to the present day (2009 being the most recent).

The 1824-1826 proof coins features a smaller head of the king, with the legend GEORGIUS IV DEI GRATIA and the date, while the reverse shows a crowned shield within a mantle cape with the legend BRITANNIARUM REX FID DEF. The 1826 coin has the edge inscription DECUS ET TUTAMEN ANNO REGNI SEPTIMO.

In 1831 a proof coin of this denomination was produced for the start of the reign of king William IV. The obverse shows a right facing head of the king with the legend GULIELMUS IIII D G BRITANNIAR REX F D, while the reverse shows a crowned shield with the legend ANNO 1831. There is no edge inscription.

The next appearance of the denomination was not until 1887 when the golden jubilee of Queen Victoria was being celebrated, when the Jubilee head was used with the obverse inscription VICTORIA D G BRIT REG F D, while the reverse shows Pistrucci's design of St George slaying the dragon with the only legend being the date in the exergue. The edge of this coin is milled, and it weighs 16 grams. This coin was also (rarely) produced in the mint at Sydney, Australia, which is identified by the letter "S" above the centre of the date.

The Pistrucci reverse was used again in 1893, when the obverse used the "Old Head" of the queen, with the legend VICTORIA DEI GRA BRITT REGINA FID DEF IND IMP, and the edge is again milled.

In the reigns of Kings Edward VII, George V, (Edward VIII), and George VI, two pound coins were only issued in proof sets in the first year of their reign (only prepared for approval in the case of Edward VIII, which is why his coin is valued at around £175,000!), except for Edward VII in 1902 when they did circulate. All these reigns used the Pistrucci George and Dragon obverse with milled edges. The 1902 Edward VII coin was also minted at Sydney, being identified by an "S" above the centre of the date.

The reign of Queen Elizabeth II saw a departure from the normal practice in issuing gold coinage. A small number of gold £2 pieces were struck in 1953 in order to provide continuity of the series, but the striking was not released to the public, with the result that they are now valued at around £75,000. No further £2 gold pieces were struck until 1980, 9 years after decimalisation, since when they were issued somewhat haphazardly in most years. Coins from 1980 to 1984 use the Arnold Machin effigy of the Queen, while the 1985-1996 coins use the Raphael Maklouf effigy and most later coins use the Ian Rank-Broadley effigy. Until 1993, all these years use the Pistrucci reverse except for 1986 which used a gold version of the circulating Two Pound coin, and 1989 when a completely new design was used to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the first issue of the sovereign coin - the obverse shows the Queen seated on the coronation throne holding the orb and sceptre, with the legend ELIZABETH II DEI GRA REG FID DEF, while the reverse shows a crowned shield within a double rose and the legend ANNIVERSARY OF THE GOLD SOVEREIGN 1489-1989.

Since 1986 circulating £2 coins have been produced in cupronickel, and equivalent strikings in gold have been produced.

For other denominations, please see British coinage.